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Joshua, Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 26070
Experience:  LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
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Joshua. My mother died some months ago. I am in the

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Hi, Joshua.
My mother died some months ago.
I am in the process of applying for letters of administration to deal with her estate. She left 4 children, one of whom has been estranged from the family for over 5 years.
I am aware of my duty to value cash and investments which form the bulk of the estate. Title in the house was passed to the 4 children in 2000 so although it has to be included in the Inheritance Tax Return, it is not part of the estate. There is no liability to IHT. The proceeds from the estate (and house sale) will be shared equally between the 4 children.
QUESTION: Am I legally obliged to share the contents and possessions between the 4 beneficiaries or am I entitled as Administrator to convert them into cash value and then to share the total amount equally between the 4 beneficiaries when I settle the final value of the estate?
Normally it would be reasonable to ask each beneficiary to examine and share the contents.
Here, the estranged beneficiary wants to dictate how everything should be handled.
If I am legally entitled to share the financial value and not to enter into negotiations about who gets what possession, it will facilitate the settlement of the estate.
There is no intention to deprive any beneficiary of their financial share but I need to know my legal obligation as I expect the estranged beneficiary to challenge any decision I make.
My mother was in her 80s and lived in a Victorian terraced house for many years and the contents are worth very little.
Thank you for any advice you can give me.
Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practising lawyer in England with over 10 years experience.

My apologies for the delay in reverting to you over the bank holiday weekend. Please accept my sympathies for your loss.

I agree your analysis in the first five lines of your post regarding the property and the estate generally subject as follows. If the house was transferred into the names of the children in 2000 then it does not have to be included in the inheritance tax return unless your mother continued to live in it without paying rent in the last 7 years of her life. If she did then this would be treated as a reservation of benefit and the transfer into childrens names would be ignored and under these circumstances you are right that it would still have to be included though taper relief may be available. If there is no IHT liability because the estate is under the IHT allowance then this is academic.

Regarding possession as administrator (though consider that your siblings have an equal right to act alongside you and apply for joint administration, you have a right to convert possessions into cash that. No one beneficiary is entitled to a specific object. Having said that it is generally where possible worth consulting benficiaries on this point as some possessions can have strong sentimental value and selling or disposing of them without consultation can produce resentment although it would not result in any legal claim against you unless the object could be shown to have had commercial value which you failed to appreciate.

The estranged beneficairy has no right to dictate. They could apply for a joint grant of administration and have equal control with you but unless they do they only have a right to their share and not legal control of administration.

Providing you ensure that you achieve value in respect of any possession you sell or disose of there is no legal complaint available against you and you may proceed as you propose in respect of the possessions.

I hope the above is of assistance? If you have no further questions for now I should be very grateful if you would kindly take a moment to click to rate my service to you today or just reply back to let me know if the above is helpful. Your feedback is important to me. If there is anything else I can help with please reply back to me I'd be very grateful
Joshua and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thank you very much for your reply .

My mother did continue to live in the house without paying rent and the house has to be treated as a "gift with reservation of benefit" for the IHT return. The total value of the estate (including the sale value of the house) is well below the IHT threshold so no tax will be due.

Your advice in the paragraph "Regarding possession as administrator .." is helpful. One of my siblings will be applying for joint administration. I agree with your comments about objects which have sentimental value and we would wish to avoid unnecessary disputes. We will be happy to dispose of them to the beneficiaries who may want them but would also record the value of these disposals to ensure equality of settlement of monetary value. A problem will arise when an item is wanted by two beneficiaries. In this case, the estranged sibling demands that the item must be sold and the proceeds shared.

To avoid any misunderstanding, would I be correct understanding that the administrators are legally entitled to decide what action to take without the approval of the estranged sibling?

Your advice that " No one beneficiary is entitled to a specific object" is very clear. No application for a joint grant of administration has been made therefore the other sibling " only has a right to their share and not legal control of administration" is also helpful should we be unable to reach any amicable agreement.

When valuing her estate, I need to find the ‘market value’ (i.e. realistic selling price) of assets. I have been advised that I should use a professional valuer for land, buildings, household goods and personal belongings worth more than £500. (See The house has been valued by two Estate Agents. Items of jewellery has been valued by a jeweller but do not exceed £500. I will estimate the value of other contents and possessions. The monetary value of the whole lot is minimal. The real value particular items are their emotional or sentimental value. I propose to estimate the value of contents and possessions based on any information I can find for similar items on sale locally (e.g. A reputable Charity used furniture shop).

Provided I keep records to show how goods have been valued, would I be legally correct in taking this course of action?

Am I correct in understanding that S25 of the Administration of Estates Act 1925 is the legal basis for my duty as personal representative, and S27 for the protection of persons acting on administration?

Is there anything else you recommend I consider?

We want to resolve this difficult issue without unnecessary dispute, but if we cannot, your clear advice gives me a legal "fall back position" which I can rely on. Thank you.

I do apologise for the delay in reverting to you over the bank holiday weekend. Would you still like assistance with the above?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Dear *****

Thank you for your message.

Yes, please. I would appreciate your confirmation and comments to my questions (in bold) in my follow up response to your first reply.

Regarding a dispute over one item. The non administrator estranged sibling does not get a veto in this respect. The administrators have a final say. Where the item has no value then it can either be disposed of or alloted to one beneficairy at the administrators discretion. Where it has value it can be sol or alloted but the value should be deducted from that beneficiaries share. Normally though of course not always beneficiaries will be able to come to a sensible and adult agreement amoun how to divide possessions but where this is not possible the administrators decide as above.You do not need to obtain professional valuations on general personal posessions where it is clear they have limited financial value. To try to value every item would place a disproportional expense on the estate so proceeding to nominally value general personal possessions with a best guess is perfectly acceptable.s1 AoEA is the basis of your authority to act as administration but s25 -31 contains your duties, powers and liabilities as administrator.You can claim out of pocket expenses for acting as administrator. You cannot charge for your time unless you are a professional administrator (e.g. a solicitor) but you should not be out of pocket from your duties.I hope the above is helpful.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.


Your replies and advice are very clear and very helpful.

Thank you very much.

A pleasure. Best wishes